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VOL. 40 | NO. 48 | Friday, November 25, 2016

Two lines helped define mountaintop paradise

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HIGHLANDS, N.C. – Was Old Edwards Golf Course dropped from heaven to its resting place on this marvelous crest of the Continental Divide? Or was it etched into the sides of this mountain thousands of years ago by divine beings in need of a place to practice their short game?

Whatever the answer, it is but one of the many highlights to be found in this mountainous region of western North Carolina, where the names of the towns cannot be mentioned without reference notes.

Highlands is a town in Macon County, but is said to lie partly in Jackson County, as well. That’d be note one.

Note two: It is not to be confused with The Highlands, a handle applied to a wider area than merely the town, which was founded in 1875 when Samuel Truman Kelsey and Clinton Carter Hutchinson engaged in a creative little game of line-drawing.

It seems the line between Chicago and Savannah and the one between New York City and New Orleans intersect at a point in the mountains of western North Carolina that is about 4,100 feet above sea level.

These two fellows decided that this place had great potential to become a trade and marketing crossroads. Because it was over 4,000 feet above sea level, they decided to call it Highlands.

Fifty-five years later Atlanta golfer Bobby Jones founded the Highlands Country Club, along with some of his friends. And, voila! Can you say golf mecca?

Note three: Kelsey was born in 1832 in Florida, New York – who knew there was such a place? Per an online obit, he was the fifth of 13 children.

He died in 1921 in Salem, Massachusetts, and was many things in his lifetime: farmer, school teacher, forester, nurseryman, surveyor, explorer, husband, father and co-founder of four towns in Kansas and North Carolina.

Note four: Hutchinson was born in 1833 in Barnard, Vermont. After studying civil engineering, he worked for Rock Island Railroad for a while, farmed, taught school, married and then started traveling west.

He seems to have become a Baptist preacher, encountered Kelsey and joined him in founding Ottawa and Hutchinson, Kansas.

Note five, I suppose, is that the town adjacent to the Highlands, Cashiers, is not pronounced like the plural of the person who takes your money at a store. It is pronounced as though it were devoid of the i – KASH erz.

Note six: Buck’s Coffee Cafe (with two locations, one in each town) is locally-owned and features specialty brews, sandwiches, soups, live music at times and a cozy, comfy atmosphere. (The joke, “I didn’t realize that Star and Buck had separated” was probably used before I thought it up, and apparently isn’t that funny.)

Note seven: The Buck’s in Cashiers also features Unique Objects, a “marvelously eclectic shop” that sorta winds its way through the coffee-drinking area, giving it a gallery ambience in spots.

Per the online magazine The Laurel, U.O.’s owners bring “unbounded energy” to the selection of items for sale. I saw furniture, jewelry, craft items, true artwork and more.

The “aesthetic sense … informs every choice,” and “you never know what you will find next.”

Susan and I are visiting friends who have a home in the area.

Their names, along with info related to them, are in today’s I Swear Crossword, “Family Matters.”

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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